Monday, August 10, 2009

Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire

click photo to enlarge
Quite a few visitors to Britain are surprised by some of the castles they see. If they go to Bodiam in Sussex, and survey its squat drum towers, solid walls, machicolated defensive entrance, battlements, moat, etc, then they see the epitome of medieval might in a building that offers everything that the word "castle" means to the average person. Conway, Chepstow, Beaumaris, Harlech and many more offer a similar experience. It's not these buildings that mystify people, however, it's the castles that are barely distinguishable from country houses (stately homes) that are the problem.

The fact is, that castles gradually evolved from strongholds with a very real military purpose - either defence or oppression - into large, comfortable, ostentatious houses, which retained the title of "castle" often because of the aristocracy's emotional attachment to buildings that both looked and sounded impressive. The increasing power of the monarch, the greater stability of Britain, and the widespread use of gunpowder brought an end to the building of castles in the medieval period. Those castles that were erected later had the trappings of their forebears, but would have been of limited value in any fighting involving a well-armed foe. An example is Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire. Made of brick, with stone details, it would have impressed the local population, kept peasants with pitchforks at bay, but would have soon succumbed to cannon.

Many castles were converted into large dwellings when their initial purpose disappeared. Today's photograph shows a case in point. From the north Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire, is a typical, grand, Baroque country house displaying architecture in the classical style by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. From the south it is a much more domestic-looking building of the sixteenth century with pitched roofs, gables, projecting bays, domestic windows in wood and stone, and not a sign of fortifications. Except, that is, for the towers at each end of the elevation. The one at the left (like the two on the north front) is a much later addition designed to increase the resemblance of the building to a castle. The one on the right of the photograph is the original tower from the castle that was built here in the 1200s by Gilbert de Gant, and is known as King John's Tower, its age betrayed on the exterior by the pronounced batter (slope) at the base of its walls.

I took my shot with the overhanging trees and their shadows framing the elevation, and used the gravel path to add a leading line and a little more foreground interest.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/1250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On